Carlos Alcaraz is working his magic again. Be careful.

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It happens every time that guy Carlos Alcaraz takes the court. An extremely bizarre point where he does something that people who have been watching tennis for decades will swear the lives of their favorite doubles partner they have never seen before.

And they’re probably right because even though he’s struggled his way through the past six months (for him), experiencing some version of a sophomore slump, Alcaraz has never failed to put in a great performance.

On Sunday, in the final of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, the moment arrived a little more than halfway through the first set against Daniil Medvedev.

Alcaraz had a perfectly elevated short-range lob as he closed in on the net. At first, he thinks he can leap backwards and hit her – but halfway through that maneuver, he realizes he has to turn and spring and chase her, which he does. That’s right before he hits the purple hard court for the second time.

And that’s when Alcaraz-of-it-all really takes hold. At the last moment, he realizes that because of the way he is holding his racket in his forehand grip, he cannot get under the ball. At this point, almost everyone who has ever done this for a living takes a desperate swat and the ball goes across the ground and into the net. This is not the case with Alcaraz.

In a second, he turns the wrist and swipes at the ball which is behind his string at that moment.

And things go on and a few shots later, he hits a forehand down the line and Medvedev watches him whistle.

And just like that, with tennis returning to its previous summer state, Alcaraz staked his claim to the present and future of the game, outclassing his opponent at every stroke, winning a title while forcing every last mistake off the court. Saw going out. , then embraced his tennis father and coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero, and his real father, and thousands of fans showered him with roars of their praise.

Hours later, with a large glass trophy placed next to him after a 7-6(5), 6-1 victory, Alcaraz was unable to explain what had happened at that little first miracle of a point.

“Something happened in my legs that I couldn’t jump,” he said. “When something like this happens, you have to bowl another ball and run towards the next ball.”

Alcaraz has said repeatedly over the past two weeks that he has had a rough time over the past few months. The loss was certainly awkward, but the main problem was that when he stepped onto the court, whether it was for training or competition, he struggled to find the joy he always felt when his hands There used to be a racket. His family and his coaches kept asking him what went wrong.

He had no answers for them, which, in some ways, made it even worse. When he sprained his ankle in Rio last month, he was as depressed as he had been since the beginning of his career.

(Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

For nearly 200 years, and perhaps longer, people have been coming to California to try to reinvent their identity or discover their old, true identity. And that’s about what happened to Alcaraz over the past two weeks in the Coachella Valley.

The boy came back, and when he came back, the show started once again and there were never before those crazy moments of running, waving wrists and crossing the line that sent the capacity crowd of 16,000 into the first set. Gave. Frenzy.

“Points like this give me extra motivation to bring a smile on my face,” he said with a smile on his face.

This was supposed to happen long ago. Alcaraz is too talented and too dedicated to the sport to let this eight-month drought without a title go on that long. Why would the cycle of his early career be any different from that point forward?

Just when the first whispers of doubt were beginning, when his close friend and rival Jannik Sinner was making his play for dominance, Alcaraz came alive. He defeated Sinner in the semi-finals here, ending the Italian’s 19-match winning streak, then got some revenge against Medvedev, who had his attempt to defend his title at the US Open ended in September when it The fallow period was beginning.

Alcaraz is nothing if not flexible, especially when an A-list crowd is on hand, as it was in the desert on Sunday. Rod Laver was there, and Maria Sharapova, and actors Charlize Theron, Zendaya, and Tom Holland. When Alcaraz is on the court, especially in the finals, a tennis match turns into an event and in the first few years, she has almost always performed well. When that stopped happening over the past eight months, the tennis world sensed something was off.

not anymore. The victory gave Alcaraz her second consecutive title in what many players and most of the sport considers to be the most important tournament that is not a Grand Slam. It was the 13th title of his ongoing career, although it will be his second at No. 1 the next time he claims the sport’s top ranking (it will be soon). In 2022, at the age of 19, he became the youngest player ever to top the rankings.

(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

When it was over, Medvedev sat in the locker room with his coach Gilles Servara, told him he had no regrets about the afternoon, and asked Servara if he had any regrets. A shot or two here and there, Cervara said, but it was on Alcaraz’s racket.

Medvedev said that when Alcaraz raised his level in the first set, he “I managed to get there and try to catch his level, but I was just a little bit down. Finally, it was going down, down, down, down, and he was going up, up, up.

Alcaraz was not alone in rearranging the world on Sunday. In the women’s final, Inga Swiatek defeated Maria Sakkari to win her second Indian Wells title in three years. Swiatek won 6–4, 6–0, defeating Greece’s most successful female player with the kind of efficiency that has become her trademark. And Swiatek being Swiatek, this win came with at least one set of pure dominance – a second set ‘bagel’ in the scoreline that often adds an exclamation point to many of his wins.

The 22-year-old Swiatek, already the winner of four Grand Slam titles but none since June, showed her resiliency last fall after losing her No. 1 ranking for 76 weeks. By the end of the season, she had regained it, but she faltered early at the Australian Open, and with Aryna Sabalenka advancing, Swiatek’s dominance looked to be in danger. When things kicked off for him in Indian Wells 10 days ago, there were even more reasons to be nervous.

She opened against Danielle Collins, who had almost defeated her in Australia. Then came Linda Noskova, the young Czech who sent him home to Melbourne. Collins got three games. Noskova got four. Both had to face defeat in the second set.

When Swiatek won here two years ago and then completed the ‘sunshine double’ with victory at the Miami Open two weeks later, it was a breakthrough moment for her. A master of clay court tennis, she had suddenly proven herself that she could win on hard courts.

“This time, I’m extremely happy with the work,” Swiatek said.

His opponents, not so much. They know he has turned his dominance and efficiency into a strategy that has led to a 19-4 record and six consecutive wins in the finals because he has a lot of energy.

(Robert Prange/Getty Images)

“I’ve played big hitters, but it also takes up your time,” Sakkari said. “It took me a few games to get used to his timing.”

The scary thing for all the other women is that the sweet spot of Swiatek’s season, the clay court swing, is still three weeks away. In years past, stepping onto the red soil felt like coming home and she looked forward to it.

“It doesn’t really matter now,” she said, a little inflexibly.

For Alcaraz, the flex often comes in the form of small miracles that he manages more than anyone else. Medvedev, who can pull off a few of his own from time to time, knows what an impact he can have when you manage one.

“You feel like, OK, you can do more, hit stronger, hit faster and get better,” he said.

And that’s what happened as the match moved into the second set and it reached its inevitable conclusion. At some moments, it felt as if the balls coming off Alcaraz’s racket were defying the laws of physics and lost no momentum from the moment they left his racket to the moment they bounced or flew past Medvedev’s eyes. Were staying.

Medvedev would bounce the ball again and again and Alcaraz would send it back without any care.

“He hits a good shot, I get in trouble and I lose the point,” Medvedev said. “It’s tough. Mentally it’s not easy to play against.”

No one knows this better than Alcaraz. From 80 feet away, it is not at all difficult to see the enemy’s shoulders slumping, his spirit breaking, his head shaking in astonishment and helplessness.

And nothing, in a moment or in the long run, helps matters more than a little magical thinking and whammy. He said, when the tension was rising, that wild series of shots was good for the game, for both him and Wider, and more importantly, it was good for his soul.

“With a smile on my face I always say I’m playing better,” he said. “These kind of points no matter whether I win or lose it, it brings a smile to my face anyway. I think it helps me improve my game in matches and show my best tennis.”

The smart money says Alcaraz’s best tennis is yet to come.

(Top photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

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